Today I have a real treat (and a first on this wee blog, which is hard to achieve after 5 years of blogging)…an interview with the audiobook narrator of Omari and The People, Curt Simmons!
Q & A:
Tell us a bit about the process of being an audiobook narrator- do you read the book entirely before beginning narration? Or chapter by chapter? And do you narrate it sequentially, or by character, or some other way?
I have a friend who is a very successful Hollywood actor. Early in his career he narrated a few audiobooks and when I first got started about two years ago, the only piece of advice he gave me was to make sure you read the entire book before you start recording. He had done a biography of Abraham Lincoln and had not finished the book before recording. As he approached the end of the book, narrating Lincoln quotes in his deep, rich bass-baritone Lincoln character voice, he finally got to the part about what a thin, high voice Lincoln actually had. Oopsy.
So, yes, I do read the book entirely before I record, for reasons like that and many other reasons. Before I start recording, I need to be solid on the concept of the novel, the theme, what’s at stake, what’s in jeopardy, the narrative device, character voices, how I want to treat the inciting incident and the climax, and more. Pacing. All of this informs my interpretation and how I tell the story.
You mentioned that this narration took an extended period of time because of life circumstances- how long does it usually take to narrate an audiobook of this size?
Under normal circumstances I should have finished production on Omari in about five to seven weeks. I am getting faster and more efficient, but because of the life circumstances you’re referring to, it took me four months. The good news is that Stephen hired me with full knowledge of my situation and gave me all the time I needed. He was wonderful about it. He never made me feel rushed. He was extremely patient and supportive. As a result, I feel like I really got to explore the desert with Omari and the People and deliver my best work.
5-7 weeks?! Wow- that’s much faster than I would’ve expected! OK, so you’re intimate with the novel, having delved into the characters enough to get their voices and mannerisms locked down. Which is your favorite character and why?
I love this question because I would never have been able to predict my answer before narrating the book. My favorite character is Umal, the old mother, and for several reasons. She is the only character I can listen to and completely forget that it’s me. I love that. She’s also Joseph Campbell’s supernatural helper/mentor who assists the hero on his journey up from the belly of the beast. Her wisdom and counsel actually propel the story through her influence on Omari. He acts on her advice. She is, almost exclusively, the reason the book is in the Magic Realism genre, although I don’t think it is full blown Magic Realism, it’s a blend. Most of all though, and I think this is a very important aspect of Stephen’s story. The fact that such a strong, wise, influential, force of nature is embodied in the character of an old woman is a wonderful and powerful statement and it takes the story places it would not have gone otherwise.
That answer is perfect. She’s definitely a catalyst, unknowable and mischievous (my favorite combo, too). After reading your review of the book, it’s clear that the story really spoke to you. Aside from it being moving because of the writing, mystique, and classic themes, why do you think it touched you so much?
How wonderful that this book helped you feel supported in such a stressful and frightening time! I imagine connecting with the crux of the story like that aided the emotional intensity you brought to the narration. So what other projects do you have going on?
Thank you for asking, Beth. I’ve been looking at classics a lot lately, like Fitzgerald, Conrad, Hemingway, Jack London, even Hawthorne. Since I haven’t found anything yet on ACX or gotten any nibbles directly from publishers, I just started production on The Call of The Wild. It’s in the public domain, so I can publish my own edition in text form on Amazon and also narrate the audiobook. Such a great concept. The majestic family pet is abducted, beaten until unconscious, and sold into service as an Alaska gold rush sled dog. Told from the point of view of the dog. Ah. Yes.
Oddly enough, I never considered The Call of The Wild to have a trafficking bent like that (maybe it’s been too many years since I read it). I would love to listen to it, and more classics, on audiobook, especially since pacing of classic novels can feel slow to a modern reader (*ahem* with a short attention span). How brilliant! Thanks for undertaking that, and thanks so much for your time here, Curt! I can’t wait to check out your next audiobook.
|Curt lives in Seattle and produces and narrates audiobooks in his home studio. He began his performing career in college as a stage actor and radio personality. After college, in addition to acting, Curt also did voiceovers for commercials, which he also wrote, directed, and edited for broadcast TV. Following the birth of his daughter in 1984, he left the performing arts to pursue a more “stable” profession managing projects. Then, in 2014 he returned to the professional stage for the first time in over 30 years as Walter Flood in Becky’s New Car by Stephen Dietz. He has also appeared recently as Lyman in Other Desert Cities by Jon Robin Baitz and Ralph in The Last Romance by Joseph DiPietro. Omari and the People is Curt’s sixth audiobook.|